How to Optimize Your IT Infrastructure for the Internet of Things
The IoT is already making waves in the enterprise space, but as it continues to grow, IT teams need to evaluate whether their existing infrastructures are primed to make the most of it.
From digital voice assistants like the Amazon Echo to machine learning-powered network management platforms, the Internet of Things (IoT) has become a dominant force in both the consumer and enterprise spaces.
According to a Business Insider Intelligence report, there will be 22.5 billion IoT devices in use worldwide by 2021 and more than 55 billion IoT devices in use by 2025, a remarkable increase over the roughly 9 billion devices in use at the end of last year. This proliferation will be driven largely by corporate investment, with companies planning to collectively pour $15 trillion into the IoT between now and 2025, including $5 trillion in the next five years alone.
This level of investment is hardly surprising considering that a survey conducted by Forbes Insights found that over 90% of companies believe the IoT “will be important to the future of their business.” But why are so many companies so bullish on the IoT? First and foremost because Forbes forecasts that the IoT will boost corporate profits by 21% by 2022 and generate an incredible $11 trillion in collective annual savings and revenues by 2025.
That said, many companies still need to address a number of structural challenges before they’re positioned to reap the rewards of the IoT. Nearly a third (32%) of the Forbes respondents say that they’re struggling to pinpoint a tangible return on their IoT investment, while a similar number of respondents highlight cross-department cooperation (31%) and integration of disparate data (30%) as significant pain points.
If you’re among the 49% of companies in the early stages of IoT planning, here are several things to keep in mind when optimizing your current IT infrastructure for the demands of the IoT.
Privilege End-to-End Integration
IoT devices only deliver their full value when they’re properly integrated into a larger IT infrastructure. Pastiche may be a compelling art form, but it’s far from an effective approach to IoT integration. IoT devices — and especially multi-endpoint IoT systems — must become part and parcel of a company’s IT infrastructure; haphazardly tacking them on to an existing network is a recipe for disaster.
As such, an IT team’s first priority should be ensuring that their infrastructure is (re)designed in such a way that the data captured by their IoT devices is able to move efficiently and securely to their various business applications. Ultimately, achieving back-end integration with a company’s ERP, CRM, inventory management, and network management systems requires robust collaboration between the company’s IT, business, and operations teams — “integration” pertains not only to hardware and software, but to people, as well.
Prepare Yourself to Scale
In the grand scheme of things, the IoT is still in its infancy, and this youth makes attending to questions of scale both critical and challenging. In many instances, the IoT devices a company deploys today will be obsolete in just a handful of years. What’s more, as first-generation IoT devices are replaced by newer, more powerful devices, corporate IT infrastructures will be flooded with previously unimaginable volumes of data.
While future-proofing an IT infrastructure is all but impossible, preparing it to handle some of the more immediate questions the IoT will ask of it is not only possible, but essential. This preparation begins with developing a consistent, comprehensive blueprint for both your current and near-term future operations. If, for instance, you’re in the process of building a data lake in an AWS public cloud, you should ensure that the data gathered by any new IoT devices is also stored in an AWS environment. It may not seem like a big deal at first, but as your IoT arsenal expands, you’ll be glad that all of your data is amassed in the same place. (Indeed, this lays the groundwork for ongoing systemic integration.)
Find a Quick Win
As the Forbes survey highlights, the difficulty of pinpointing the IoT’s ROI is among the biggest obstacles to corporate adoption. IT teams might recognize the value of a sprawling network of IoT devices, but if other stakeholders aren’t convinced, the rollout is going to be messy at best (remember, buy-in from business and ops teams is essential to effective integration).
The best way for IT professionals to secure buy-in from their non-technical colleagues is to structure their IoT deployment in a way that delivers a quick win right off the bat. As long as you’ve emphasized integration and scalability from the get-go, there’s absolutely no harm in starting with a modest IoT use case as a “proof of concept” for your skeptical associates. Of course, this use case has to actually work to serve its purpose, meaning it’s important to consider a number of questions as you go about designing it.
What assets or systems is the use case designed to monitor and/or manage? What benefit are you hoping to gain from this monitoring and/or management? What type of analytical infrastructure needs to be in place to achieve that benefit? At the end of the day, the most convincing use cases are those that seamlessly deliver actionable insights that bear upon a company’s day-to-day business processes.
Choose the Right Partner
Emphasizing integration, scalability, and demonstrable ROI are critical first steps in optimizing an IT infrastructure for the IoT age. However, for many companies, these steps require a total overhaul of their existing systems. That’s why, according to the Forbes survey, a full two-thirds of companies opt to include external vendors on their IoT planning teams.
At Turn-key Technologies, we have nearly three decades of experience helping companies from a wide variety of industries navigate the twists and turns of modern IT. Our award-winning technicians possess the skill-sets necessary to design, deploy, secure, and manage networks as powerful as they are flexible, making us the perfect partner for any company preparing to tackle the challenges of IoT implementation.
By Craig Badrick